ROCHESTER — For Catholics throughout the world, walking in the footsteps of Christ along the Stations of the Cross resonates powerfully during Lent.
“It’s not just that we do it because we’re Catholic,” explained Brother Juan Lozada, the diocesan coordinator of the Spanish Apostolate. “It’s in our essence, our very souls.”
The tradition, which is a weekly Lenten practice at diocesan churches, dates back to the days of the earliest Christians who would retrace the very path Jesus walked as he was led to the cross. On Good Friday, several Latino church groups annually walk the streets of city neighborhoods with one person carrying the cross as Jesus did.
Hispanics especially view the stations as a way to become closer with Christ and with each other through his suffering, added Brother Lozada.
“That sharing of suffering is very important,” he said. “The Via Crucis gives the community an opportunity to share their suffering, their pain, all their sorrows.”
Amalia Cruz, who participated in the Stations of the Cross Feb. 23 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, agreed.
“The Stations of the Cross represent for us ‚Ä¶ the pain he endured,” she said. “We should repent all of our sins.”
To this day, pilgrims also travel to the Holy Land to walk in Jesus’ footsteps along the Way of the Cross, Brother Lozada noted, adding that it is believed Mary was among the earliest to adopt this practice after the death of her son.
As Christianity spread and political strife ensued in the Middle East, it became more difficult for Christ’s followers to re-enact Jesus’ Passion along the streets of Jerusalem. Thus, the stations were born, according to an article on the Web site Devocionario Cat√≥lico (Catholic Prayerbook).
No one is sure when the Stations of the Cross became established as a custom, but it is believed that Franciscan priests were the first to adopt the devotion during the 1300s to recall events leading to Christ’s death. The 14 modern-day stations were finalized in the 17th century, according to the Web-site article written by Father Jordi Rivero.
“The purpose of the stations is to help us unite with Our Lord, making a spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy Land at those special moments of his Passion and redemptive death,” says the Web site article by Father Rivero.
The Lenten stations at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Michael churches likewise give Latino parishioners the opportunity to share the experience with Anglo parishioners. About five years ago, the two inner-city churches began offering bilingual stations on alternate weeks.
“We wanted to be part of all services,” said Mary Mitrano, treasurer for St. Michael’s fundraising committee.
Arlene Miller, who attended the Feb. 23 stations at OLPH, said she admires the spirit of the Hispanic parishioners, noting that they organize and say the stations themselves.
“It’s really an effort by the people for the people,” Miller said.
For example, St. Michael parishioner Juan Pacheco spoke at the 12th station, “Jesus Dies on the Cross.” Even the day’s meditation, which may be offered after arriving at each station or after praying at each one, was presented by a parishioner.
OLPH’s stations are beautifully carved, three-dimensional images painted in soft hues of pink, blue and brown. The Feb. 23 group of about 20 people were led single file to each station by two parishioners, one carrying a cross and one carrying a candle. Participants prayed at each station and sang in solemn tones:
“I sinned, I sinned, my God. Pity, Lord, pity. So great are my faults; greater is your goodness.”
Pacheco remarked that the 12th station is so meaningful to him because of the centurion’s actions at the moment of Jesus’ death. After the centurion pierced Christ’s side, the water that poured out of Jesus and onto the soldier ended his spiritual blindness, Pacheco said.
The centurion woke up in this moment and recognized that Jesus was the Son of God, Pacheco said.
Since each person is special in some way, he added, people should also look inward to see if they have become blind in some way to the gifts they should be sharing with others.
Everyone can find a personal connection to the Stations of the Cross, Pacheco added.
“Each scene represents our life,” he said.